About a year ago, Caleb and I started really seeing some signs that our littles were struggling in school. This was not the first time we had thought about having them go to a professional that could help us find out why some of the lessons just didn’t seam to stay with them very long, and everyone involved was overwhelmed and frustrated. This is when we decided to look into what our first steps would be. So I did what I knew would be painful. I set out to find Payne Education. I didn’t realize just how emotional the road ahead was going to be, but to be honest, I should have. I am a feeler. I not only feel all of the emotions going through my moments, but all the ones the people I hold tightly are feeling as well.
Something not a lot of people know is that my Caleb is one of the most talented artists. He also happens to be extremely dyslexic, dysgraphic and he struggles with dyscalculia and dysnomia. He has ADD and to top it off, his IQ is off the charts. This combination, I hear, made for a very interesting little boy. His struggle in school took a couple years to really show due to the fact that he was a child and most children at five would much rather play than sit still, and draw pictures instead of letters. I don’t know what kind of school you went to, but both my husband and I went to schools where when you got out of line the Principal had written permission from our parents to spank our little behinds. I have been told quite a few times of the numerous (amounts of) spankings Caleb got due to not sitting still, for not fallowing instructions and for being disrespectful to his teacher. In his defense, on the last one, she had a funny name that you would use as a comedian to make your punch line more effective. Why blame a kid for doing the same?
So, as he was heading into what should have been his 5th grade year in school, the school wanted to hold him back. Marilyn Lyons wouldn’t have it. She decided something better could be done than making him repeat it till he got it, so she found Dr. Dale Jordan, a specialist in dyslexia, and had him perform all the tests that he could run. The day they got the results back for his test changed the Lyons family for ever. I of course wasn’t there. I,at this time, would have been living it up in New York where the snow falls and the trees change colors in the fall, at the ripe young age of six. Needless to say, we hadn’t met quite yet.
However, what I have been told and what I have now seen in the eyes of my own son, is that there was an immediate relief with the new understanding that stupid will not be the truth about him any longer. He was dyslexic. Caleb had started to feel like he was worthless and would never be able to learn. He was ten and this was not okay. So, Marilyn did what she knew would be the best thing for her children; she pulled them out of school and brought them home to teach them herself. She gave up a dream to get her Master’s that day and decided her son’s education would give her all the training she needed to someday teach other kids.
Years of researching and trying new things and working at a slow but steady pace, paid off when Caleb graduated high school and went to college. She worked long hours, and knowing she was a woman who enjoyed reading and learning, I know like myself, she read everything she could get her hands on to learn more and do more. To help her son be the best he could be. It worked. She didn’t get to see him become a business owner, she didn’t get to see his art work change over time from charcoal and canvas to needle and skin. She did, however, see it in his face when he finally got the help he needed to learn. She could see the light come into his eyes when something so hard started to become a little easier because of extra time or being read to over reading it himself. She may have never seen his art work in this way, but her willingness to make the changes necessary is the reason Caleb is capable of doing this work that he loves so much.
After Caleb left home and we made a home for ourselves, Marilyn did something she wanted so badly, but that looked so different then originally dreamed. She joined with Payne Education to teach children who struggled with reading using alphabetic phonics and giving of her time to let them know they could do it too. So, when I couldn’t ignore the signs of struggle any more, I looked to find the closest people to having Marilyn help my littles.
As I said before, I didn’t realize this was going to be so painful, but I should have. Not only have I been feeling the emotional ups and downs that come when you are facing testing like this, but also the feelings of loosing Marilyn all over again. When I first called Payne Education, the women I spoke to told me my first step would need to be having the kids tested for dyslexia and she emailed me a lot of great resources and names of people that could help me. So, I told Caleb and we couldn’t move forward. We just couldn’t make a decision on who to have do the tests. I tried to fill out paperwork a couple different times, but the heaviness of the feelings all around me put me into “this can’t be happening, not without her here to help,” mode, and I found myself putting it on hold until later.
In 2015, we joined a homeschool co-op that has changed my life in a number of ways, one of them being in confidence. I have been blessed to meet moms who not only give all of themselves to their kids as well, but a couple of them know first hand what dyslexia can do to a child’s learning story. I have had so many moments when there has been no judgment, when one of my kids can’t sit still or when one of them is struggling in their class. On the first day of co-op I was really nervous about the amount of busyness a co-op day would bring, and I was feeling like I might throw up on my way in the door, but then came the faces that I could see safety in and the welcome hugs that promised it would feel this way all year. For the first time in most likely my whole life, I chose to believe them right off the bat and settled into my new safe place. When we got in the van that afternoon, my little Sarah asked if we could go back. I told her we would the next week and she said, “Can’t we just go back now?” This filled me with the knowledge that we had done the right thing and this would become our school family.
With the borrowed confidence of a few of the moms, I called Payne Education back to get the numbers of the places I should call to get the testing done again. I was given one name that just felt safe when I wrote it down, so I immediately called Dr. Hartman’s office when I got off the phone and found that it would be three months before she could see the kids. I took the appointments and waited. Waiting can be one of the worst feelings.
Luckily, it was the Holidays and time moved quickly and suddenly it was the day to start the testing. It would take close to four hours per child, did I ever mention I have three? We moved in to the little waiting room with our computer to watch Netflix, and coloring books to keep them occupied, and we filled out the pages that had, up to this point, made me angry and confused. However, we sat and filled them out together for the sake of our littles and their education. After the tests were done, we set our appointment to come back to learn what the Doctor had learned. Three weeks! Between her schedule and ours it would be three weeks until we would get the results.
So again we wait. This time my dad decided to have knee surgery, so I had something to do other than twiddling my thumbs waiting. Thanks, Dad, for always thinking of me.
Yesterday we sat in the office waiting for the news that would change everything, the news that would rock my world and tell me what I have been doing wrong all this time. The news that would bring on the feelings of five and I prepared myself to feel them all. However, as the Doctor started talking something changed. She started with my Sarah, my little princess, the one I was most concerned about, and told us “Sarah is dyslexic and dysgraphic, this is why she struggles with writing but it is not severe.”
She advised me to let her use a computer to do most of her school work to eliminate the guess work on spacing and spelling. This would also give her the option to use her high vocabulary in her writing. This didn’t feel life altering, in fact it felt easy and simple.
Then she moved on to Gideon, my little monster midget. She smiled and told us nothing new. “He is very intelligent, he just has a hard time focusing,” she said. Yep, we knew that one. “He has ADHD, but since you are homeschooling and see no behavior issues, there isn’t much I would recommend you do. He also has dysgraphia and will benefit greatly from using a computer over hand writing, but he has very little signs of dyslexia and can be helped by giving him audiobooks and reading material on his level. No new life changing news there, just the knowledge that he can’t sit still or focus on one thing for to long and there are lots of ways to help him with that. Like homeschool, wait I am already doing that. Check ✔️, next?
As she moved on to David, my little man, I could sense a shift in emotions in the space between us. I could also feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit telling me, “You got this,” so I braced myself for what ever she would tell me. What she said was, “David has a high IQ. He is extremely intelligent and wants to use his brilliance effectively, he is struggling because he also is dyslexic and dysgraphic. His is more severe than the other two and will need to work with it, not against it.” So, once again, I am feeling the feelings that come with words like “more severe” and “work with it not against it” and I asked, “What do I need to do?” She smiled and said, “You get him a tutor, I suggest Payne Education, they have great people there, also you should take one of their workshops for parents. It will help you at home while you are schooling them. Also, he should have access to audiobooks and a computer. There isn’t much to change, because he is already being homeschooled and able to go at a slower pace during the day.
So, everything is different now that we know, but nothing has really had to be changed, because God had us doing quite a lot of it already. I do not have a dream of a degree to set aside for my children’s well being. I do not have days to myself to get things done like all the other requirements of a wife, mom and business owner, that I will have to give up in order to bring them home to teach them. My life will change, but only at the pace that one’s life changes because of time already, but then again, everything is different now. I will have the knowledge that my slow and steady pace will pay off in the end. Surrounding myself with moms to help me educate my children in an environment that is open to the learning differences, and not fazed by how we learn or judgmental of our process.
As we left the doctors office, the kids were eager to know what she said was different about them. So, like all good parents, we got donuts and talked it out. Gideon said, “We already knew that about me because I can read really well, but I can’t focus sometimes.” Sarah got kinda quiet and said, “So it’s not too bad if I can just use the computer, things won’t be so hard.” David had tears in is eyes and said, “I am so relieved to know I am not just lazy.” This, this is why we did the tests. So that our little man could, like his father, find out that he is exceptional, but with his exceptionality comes the struggle of reading and writing, so he will have to work with it not against it.
I am so grateful we took the step towards more knowledge and didn’t stay in our confusion just because it’s what we knew. Everything now is different, but nothing has really changed.